If you haven't seen Paraguay's roster for the match against Mexico, it's not quite their A-team. They've picked a strong roster, complete with the likes of Lucas Barrios and Cristian Riveros, but some of the big name strikers are notably absent. Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Valdez are both missing, with their manager citing their need to stay with their clubs. If Mexico's back line still has trouble defending, especially on set pieces, Chepo might have a systemic problem that he needs to deal with.
Going the other way, as we discussed earlier this week, Chepo de la Torre's biggest selection will be with his attacking midfielder. Our man Tom Marshall, who resides in Guadalajara, seems to think that Sinha will be that man after doing some examination of the Mexican press this morning. He also has Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos on the wings, with Andres Guardado and Pablo Barrera sitting.
The crowd in Oakland should be incredibly pro-Mexico, making it a virtual home match for the team. Cristian Riveros, who is arguably Paraguay's best midfielder, is not playing at all for Sunderland at the moment. As I mentioned, two of Paraguay's best strikers are out. Mexico has every advantage in the world.
Still, Lucas Barrios is a world class striker, and he'll be a handful to deal with. Rafael Marquez could be partnering Gerardo Torrado in the center of midfield instead of Israel Castro, which could help Mexico deal with that threat. Though, as good as Barrios is, it's tough to figure out exactly who is going to be able to get him the ball and/or combine with him in dangerous positions.
Mexico probably have more going in than Paraguay in terms of quality wide players, but the likes of Dos Santos and Vela, though they possess plenty of quality, are prone to drifting inside and making poor decisions. At this point in their careers, neither is a teenager anymore, and it's really time that they started growing up as footballers ahead of the Gold Cup and a World Cup qualification cycle where they will no longer be young up and comers, but key players in the side.
And then, there's Chicharito. Whether it's fair or not, Javier Hernandez will be the man who all the eyes will be on in this match. He's quickly morphing into a superstar, and his rise in popularity over the last two years is truly astonishing. He's gone from being a relatively unknown late bloomer to being the biggest star in North and Central America in a matter of about 20 months. Alex Ferguson has found himself a serious bargain as far as a goal production to money spent ratio, and the folks who sign his check have to be ecstatic at the commercial benefits of the signing and the new market they've cracked, previously one that Real Madrid and Barcelona had on lockdown.
It's the first game that Chepo is coaching with a full side, against a team who is similar in class. We'll know a lot more about Mexico under Chepo after today. Right now, everything is pure speculation, so let's sit back and enjoy the show.